David Slade's "30 Days of Night" has 3 things going for it: 1) unnerving sound editing 2) an atmospheric setting and 3) some genuinely terrifying vampires. This film far exceeded my expectations and certainly will make my 2008 'films that give me the willies' list.
I'd be interested in reading the graphic novel this film is based on. I'm not a huge fan of those types of writing, but they seem to offer an intriguing and entertaining outlook on weary genre tales (such as "From Hell" and even "Sin City", a film that I admired more than actually liked). Certain scenes in "30 Days of Night" feel tailor-made for the square frame images that a comic graphic novel would highlight... the image of a man and woman sitting on the crest of a snowy hill as the sun rises up or the close-up of a Renfield-like face filling the frame. Also, the violence in this film strongly reverberates. I couldn't count on one hand the number of beheadings (one of which is shown in shocking close-up as the head hangs loosely attached to the body by veins and arteries) or brutal tears into chunks of skin. There's even the beheading of a little girl vampire that most films would cut away from. "30 Days of Night" almost celebrates in it. I'm surprised there weren't more edits needed for
an R rating.
And to mention the vampires themselves. These are some of the most visually terrifying vampires ever imagined. Trust me, they aren't your grandparents vampires, the suave and pale faced vampires of Hammer (no offense). The vampires in "30 Days of Night" are something new and ferocious. Led by Danny Huston, they embody the features of classical and modern vampire traits, meshing the pale faced simplicity of "Nosferatu" with the bone breaking ferocity of the zombies in "28 Days Later". Not only do they drink blood, but due to their angled and sharp teeth, these are creatures that tear and violate the skin like hungry wolves. These vampires mean business and it lends an air of brutality to their gorge-fest. You actually want the heroes (Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Mark Boone Junior and a host of others) to not get caught by this primal group. And if a filmmaker gets that right, then you've won half the battle of audience involvement.
"30 Days of Night" actually gave me nightmares after seeing this movie, although in all fairness to my man-card, I was sleeping in a hotel room that same night so my bearings of common ground were waaaay off. Still, that's a major success for a horror movie. I rarely get disturbed by this genre of film and when it does happen, then I know its something special. This is a great entry into our vampire movie genre and a nice way to spend Halloween week at the movies. It's also nice to see a non 'torture porn' flick getting some cred at the box office this time of year, although it looks like the 103rd or whatever number of "Saw" raked in the dough. Sad.
And don't forget to check out the unveiled 31 Films That Give You the Willies list.